24 Feb ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO PRESENTS 12TH ANNUAL STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS Multi-Media Presentation Outlines Achievements and Improvements of 2014 and Outlook for Things to Come in 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2015
ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO PRESENTS
12TH ANNUAL STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS
Multi-Media Presentation Outlines Achievements and Improvements of 2014 and Outlook for Things to Come in 2015
Cedar Grove, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. presented his 12th annual State of the County Address on Monday, February 23rd in the Essex County Hospital Center in Cedar Grove. The multi-media presentation outlined County achievements and improvement projects completed in 2014, highlighted the services and programs offered by Essex County and announced plans for 2015.
Prior to DiVincenzo taking the podium, a short video featuring five members of the County Executive’s administrative staff shared comments about how rewarding it has been to work for Essex County. They talked about helping residents of the Juvenile Detention Center turn their lives around, helping entrepreneurs solidify their businesses, watching children enjoy programs in the parks, helping senior citizens and how the county’s infrastructure promotes commerce and growth. All of these stories are what it means to continue Putting Essex County First.
“Thirteen years ago, we stared at a blank computer screen thinking about the words that would represent our vision for good government. And then it came. Putting Essex County First,” DiVincenzo stated. “Blue ribbon education. A smiling senior. A comforted family. Revitalized neighborhoods. Fiscal responsibility. Modernized infrastructure. Greener open spaces and a second chance. This is what it meant then and this is what we work on, as a team, every day to achieve,” he said.
Essex County officials speaking as part of the program commended the County Executive on his administration’s achievements and expressed their confidence in his continued leadership.
“I am delighted to be here to offer the enthusiastic support of the Freeholders for the County Executive and the hardworking employees of Essex County,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. “It’s just February and we have already received the budget, performed our review and scheduled the adoption in March. The level of cooperation has been exceptional and clearly demonstrates that the motto of Putting Essex County First is taken to heart,” she added.
“We are looking forward to some incredible things in Newark because of our partnership with Essex County. When Essex County moves forward, it means Newark is moving forward, and vice versa,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “It is important that we all work together. Essex County is strong and we are moving forward together,” he said.
“Joe has led this county with fervent leadership,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones said. “We embrace what government can to do to help people. I am excited for what sits in the future for Essex County under the leadership of Joe DiVincenzo and Britnee Timberlake, and look forward to continued progress,” he added.
“Joe has been a tireless advocate for the residents of Essex County. There is no one who works harder than him,” said former Governor James McGreevey, who is working with DiVincenzo to implement a prisoner re-entry program in Essex County. “This year we are going to launch a re-entry program. Not every county executive would do this, but Joe is,” he noted.
The Executive spoke about the challenges from the Great Recession that continue to impact residents, but noted that Essex has responded by encouraging economic development through infrastructure projects, keeping the county workforce employed, finding recurring revenues and offering “a government that is responsive and ever-evolving to meet the needs of our families,” he noted.
The Essex County Departments of Citizen Services and Economic Development “continue to serve as a safety net, support system and bridge for many who are in transition and seeking assistance,” DiVincenzo said. Initiatives completed in 2014 include the implementation of Code Blue, which offers homeless residents shelter during cold weather; funding a special needs group home in Livingston; preventing more than 350 tenant evictions; managing grants that provide housing for clients with mental or physical disabilities, HIV or AIDS, or those on the verge of homelessness; and hosting 300 at-risk high school students at a symposium where they were able to explore career options.
“As one of the largest employers in Essex, it is critical that we remain a driving force in maintaining the economic stability of our communities,” the Executive said. “By becoming an engine of economic activity, we have changed the face of Essex County, stimulated local commerce and created new temporary and permanent jobs,” he said referring to the federal grant secured for the expansion of the Port Newark Container Terminal and the development of the South Mountain Recreation Complex. The Executive also mentioned the Essex County Utilities Authority negotiated a new solid waste disposal contract that will save the County’s 22 municipalities $5.6 million over the next seven years.
“Our greatest natural resource, the Essex County Parks System, still remains the place where our families play, compete and relax,” DiVincenzo said. Projects completed include the 1.7-mile walkway around the Orange Reservoir, the Educational Building at Turtle Back Zoo, Concourse Hill beautification, two-mile Lenape walking path and renovated basketball courts in Branch Brook Park, fitness courses in Brookdale and Ivy Hill parks, new pathways in Monte Irvin Orange Park, and building renovations in Verona and Belleville parks. The centennial celebration of Weequahic Park Golf Course raised money to benefit recreation and community events sponsored by the Weequahic Park Association, The First Tee of Essex County and the Weequahic Park Sports Authority and Turtle Back Zoo once again set a new annual attendance record and earned designations from New Jersey Monthly magazine and TripAdvisor as a top tourist attraction. Infrastructure upgrades included the new Public Works Building, Glen Avenue Bridge in Millburn and three intersections in Orange, East Orange and Newark.
During the speech, DiVincenzo recognized retired Freeholder President Blonnie Watson and outgoing Freeholders Carol Clark and Gerald Owens for their leadership, Boy Scout Sean Quinlin who collected over 500 winter coats for the less fortunate, Science Teacher Sal Lima who was named Essex County Teacher of the Year, Tom Patierno who was selected as New Jersey Culinary Teacher of the Year and the Turtle Back Zoo Docent Program for their volunteer efforts. He said the County will miss the contributions of the late Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley, the late Raymond Durkin, former Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman, and the late Clement Price, Newark Historian. Bronze statues were dedicated to Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks and Jorge Oliveira, a Sheriff’s Detective and Army National Guard Staff Sergeant who lost his life in Afghanistan.
“The start of a new year is always filled with a sense of possibility. We get another 365 days to work harder, to help more people, to reach new heights of excellence and to always keep Putting Essex County First,” DiVincenzo said. He announced that the former United Hospital site was acquired and work will move ahead to develop a new Vocational Technical School Campus. Other projects planned for 2015 are a Giraffe Exhibit, new cafeteria building and opening of a second parking deck at Turtle Back Zoo; planting 1,000 new Cherry Trees in Branch Brook Park so the collection reaches 5,000; new playgrounds in Glenfield, Brookdale, Branch Brook and Weequahic parks; modernized athletic fields at the Weequahic Park Oval; renovation of the West Side Park Community Center and park buildings in Glenfield, Brookdale, Irvington and Vailsburg parks and at the Orange Reservoir; historic restoration of Kip’s Castle; and infrastructure upgrades along South Orange Avenue, Chancellor Avenue and Lyons Avenue. Another economic development initiative that would create jobs is the opening of a casino in Newark. He also announced that Jeanette Page-Hawkins, Director of the NJ Division of Family Development, will become the Director of the Division of Welfare in April.
“Thirteen years later, we look from town to town, park to park and program to program instead. But most importantly, we look at the people we help and serve, knowing that we have created a good government. Our families’ stories, challenges and successes inspire us and are the reasons why we keep Putting Essex County and our People First,” DiVincenzo concluded.
Contact: Anthony Puglisi